What to do if you get Passed Up for a Promotion?

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How to react when you lose out on a promotion!

Have you ever gone for that Specialty Rep position but the other person got it?  Or perhaps you went for that DM position but your were beaten out by the guy you know you are more talented than.  It is a tough pill to swallow but it happens to the best of us in every industry across the world including pharmaceutical sales.  Sometimes we lose, but what exactly can you do to exact your revenge and get that coveted position?  What shouldn’t you do after narrowly missing out on that position you thought you were absolutely ideal for?  We will answer these questions and more.

As a professional that worked in the pharma sales industry for eleven years, I have had my fair share of success but moreover I have had far more disappointments.  If one looks at my career from the outside they will see a young professional that successfully climbed the pharma sales ladder.  But the reality is, I was turned down for every position I went for multiple times.  My history of sales success was exemplary and documented but for each position I went for I flat out lost!!  Someone beat me out.  Here are some examples of how many times I lost:

  • As a Territory Rep going for a Specialty Rep position: I was turned down 5 times before winning the position on the 6th times
  • As a Specialty Rep going for a Regional Sales Trainer Position: I was turned down 2 times before winning the position on the 3rd time
  • As a Regional Sales Trainer going for a DM position: I was turned down 2 times before winning the position on the 3rd try

There is a lot of losing in there…and frankly though at the times, I probably thought it was the end of the world, it taught me exactly what to do and what not to do when losing out on the promotion I so badly wanted.

What NOT to do:

So many pharma professionals sabotage their own careers after losing out on a position.  They whine publicly to anyone that will listen.  They let it be known that they believe they are better than the person who they lost out to and if I am being honest at some point I am sure I did the same.  But the moment that you lose out on a position all eyes are on you.  With the theme of Emotional Intelligence (EI) playing such a large role in pharma sales today, losing the position can be the best thing that has ever happened to your career if you handle it correctly and show a certain level of EI.  But too many times people are unable to regulate themselves and their emotions.  Here is what not to do:

  1. Don’t whine to everybody within the company letting them know your displeasure:  This shows a complete lack of EI, more specifically self-awareness and self-regulation.  If you covet that leadership position, you are shooting yourself in the foot by being petulant and whinny.  This now becomes who you are as a professional and as all eyes are on you to see how you will handle adversity, you just showed that you have no ability to do so.  Instead of whining to everyone within the company, think twice…you are setting yourself up for a very long role in your current position just by acting this way.
  2. Don’t threaten to leave the company:  I have seen some threaten to leave the company and their bluff was called and they were out.  They regretted the emotional action and wish they had never acted so kneejerkish.  As good as you think you are…you aren’t so good that you are going to hold an entire pharmaceutical company hostage over your talents….believe me they will survive without you.  If somehow they didn’t call your bluff and you stayed, what incentive would they have to hire you for that next position up.  You are now labeled a trouble maker and likely NOT the next DM.
  3. If you are excellent at your current job….Don’t stop being excellent:  Again…all eyes are on you and your reaction to losing.  They are looking to see your ability to handle adversity….especially if you narrowly missed out.  If you narrowly missed out, you are next inline…unless your performance tanks that is.  That next position will be filled with difficulty and adversity.  If you cant handle the adversity of missing out on a position you coveted, how will you handle the next position up’s adversity??

What TO do:

Many who get passed up for that promotion they wanted so badly fail to realize that it is a HUGE opportunity.  It is an opportunity to show that you are a true professional who can not only handle adversity but thrive under it and perform through it.  This is exactly what leaders are made of and not getting that promotion you wanted is a great opportunity to prove your worth and set yourself up for a long prosperous career in pharmaceuticals.  Take a look at some things that you should do if you miss out on that promotion:

  1. Be Gracious in Defeat:  There is nothing worse than a sore loser.  No one likes a sore loser and if you act like one…good luck in getting the position when you try again.  Be gracious….say things like. “Thank you very much for the opportunity to interview….I am dedicated to progressing in my career and will look to polish my skills in preparation for the next opportunity”.  Being classy in defeat can singularly get you that next position.  Remember, business is filled with adversity.  If you can shine while going through adversity this is a huge indicator of who you are as a person and as a professional.  I have seen many hiring managers think that they made the wrong decision after seeing how professionally someone handled losing out on the promotion they wanted.
  2. Ask for Developmental Opportunities:  If you work for a reputable pharma organization, they will likely give you feedback on developmental opportunities.  However, politely ask and inquire about some developmental opportunities that you can work on so that you are more prepared for the next opportunity for promotion.  This shows that you are a professional through and through and only looking to progress with your skill sets.  When you receive them, print out the e-mail and keep it for your brag book.  Document all of the actions (and the results of those actions) you have taken since the missed promotion to work on exactly what the hiring manager said was your developmental opportunities.  This shows professionalism and organizational skills.  This shows forethought and really is an easy way to be seen as a strong professional in the companies eyes
  3. Put a Plan of Action together with your Current Manager:  If you have a good solid manager he/she should be vested in your development.  Every manager answers to a Regional Director.  That Regional Director knows about everything each DM is working on with his/her reps.  If you proactively reach out to your manager about a plan of action to get better and to succeed in winning that promotion…that proactive attitude will get back to the RD and put you in a very solid light.
  4. Go Home and Whine to your Family:  Everyone needs to get things off their chest.  When you are at work or speaking to someone at work…put on your corporate mask….when you are home whine like a cry baby till you get it all out and then look to bullets 1 through 3!!